Saturday, February 25, 2006

Abundant Choices!

Decisions .... decisions! There are some hard choices today - two different Walkures; the fast-rising young tenor James Valenti in Traviata; the Met's Samson et Dalil with Borodina (the only singer here that, frankly, appeals to me); Zenlinsky's Der König Kandaules (to make a Zemlinsky fanatic of our acquaintance happy) with a lovely lyric, Barbara Haverman; a strong cast in Mozart's Clemenze di Tito; a Cunning Little Vixen with Rosemary Joshua. Unfortunatley most of these items are already underway (I overslept this morning).

  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Stockholm, Wagner's Die Walküre, with Katarina Dalayman, Terje Stensvold, Nina Stemme, Endrik Wottrich, Martina Dike and Hans-Peter König, conducted by Gregor Bühl.
  • DR P2 - Yet another Die Walküre, with Poul Elming, Iréne Theorin, Tina Kiberg, James Johnson and Stephen Milling, conducted by Michael Schønwandt.
  • France Musiques - From Paris, a performance of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, featuring Mark Padmore, Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Bernarda Fink, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Sunhae Im and Sergio Foresti, conducted by René Jacobs.
  • Klara and Radio Oesterreich International - A November 2005 performance of Verdi's La Traviata, with Norah Amsellem, the up-an-coming James Valenti and Dalibor Jenis, conducted by Danieli Gatti.
  • Latvia Radio Klasika - A July 2005 performance from Munich of Handel's Alcina, with Anja Harteros, Vasellina Kasarova, Sonja Prima and Debora York, conducted by Ivor Bolton.
  • Musiq3 - From Opéra Royal de Wallonie an April 2003 performance of Zemlinsky's Der König Kandaules, with Barbara Haveman, Mireille Bailly, Gary Bachlund, Werner Van Mechelen, Peter Edelmann, James McLean, Patrick Delcour, Randall Jakobsh, Jean Teitgen, Guy Gabelle, François Piolino, Léonard Graus and Roger Joakim, conducted by Bernhard Kontarsky.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From De Nederlandse Opera a February 2 performance of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, with Rosemary Joshua, Natascha Petrinsky, Dale Duesing and Robert Poulton, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.
  • Metropolitan Opera Broadcast (numerous stations) - Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila, with Olga Borodina, Clifton Forbis and Jean-Philippe Lafont, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. ALSO, remember that Lyric FM in Ireland airs the Met later in the day. We have recently added two new stations from Down Under - ABC Classic FM from Australia and Concert FM from New Zealand - which both carry the Met broadcasts, but they are three weeks behind, so if you have missed a broadcast, here is a golden opportunity to pick up a past broadcast in good sound. They are available ;ate Saturday evening and early Sunday morning Eastern time.
  • WVIK and YPR - NPR World of Opera is starting a three-week series of concert performances from Opera Orchestra of New York, all conducted by Eve Queler. The first opera is Verdi's Attila, with Lauren Flanigan, Samuel Ramey, Francisco Casanova, C.Y. Liao, and Jason Grant.
  • Cesky Rozhlas-3 Vltava - Fibich's NEVĚSTA MESSINSKÁ, with Marta Krásová, Přemysl Kočí, Ivo Žídek, Milada Šubrtová, Josef Celerín, Jaroslav Veverka, Antonín Votava and Vlasta Mlejnková, Václav Jiráček.
  • Espace 2 - From the Bolshoi in Moscow, a December 2005 performance of Prokoviev's War and Peace, with Andreï Grigoriev, Margarita Mamsirova, Tatiana Yerastova, Alexander Naumenko, Roman Muravitsky, Oksana Kornievskaya, Vsevolod Grivnov, Paata Burchuladze, and Boris Statsenko, conducted by Alexander Vedernikov.
  • Catalunya Música - From Gran Teatre del Liceu, a performance of Granados' María del Carmen, with Ana María Sánchez, María Rodríguez, Albert Montserrat, David Pittman-Jennings, Stefano Palatchi, Joan Marín- Royo, Mercè Obiol and Javier Roldán, conducted by Josep Caballé-Domenech.

Happy listening!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hello all - it's been a couple of weeks since we have had the time to post the Saturday highlights, so here'e the full-blown run down of this afternoon's OperaCasts:
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Budapest, Mozart's Great Mass in C featuring Andrea Csereklyei, Andrea Melath, Attila Fekete and Istvan Kovacs, and the Chor und Sinfonieorchester des Ungarischen Rundfunks, conducted by Tamas Vasary.
  • France Musiques - A November 2005 performance of Caldara's L'Olympiade, with Brian Asawa, Gemma Bertagnolli, Martin Oro and Barbara di Castri.
  • Klara - a May 2005 performance of Handel's Atalanta with Dominique Labelle, Susanne Rydén, Emma Curtis, Michael Slattery, Philipp Cutlip, William Berger, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From Da Nationale Reisopera a February 11, 2006 performance of Puccini's Turandot with the original Alfano ending, featuring Lisa Livingstone, Hein Meens, Frank van Aken and Machteld Baumans, conducted by Ed Spanjaard.
  • MDR Figaro - From Staatsoper Under den Linden Berlin, a January 21, 2006 performance of Faustus, the last night, by Pascal Dusapin, with Georg Nigl, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Robert Wörle, Jaco Huijpen and Caroline Stein, conducted by Michael Boder.
  • Metropolitan Opera Broadcast (Numerous stations) - A live performance of Verdi's Aida, with Andrea Gruber, Johan Botha, Olgas Borodina and Juan Pons, conducted by James Conlon. Note that RDP Antena 2 and Lyric FM will be carrying the Aida on a delayed basis.
  • NRK Alltid Klassisk - From Lyons, a February 2005 performance of Chabrier's Le roi malgré, with Nicolas Rivenq, Magali Léger, Laurent Naouri, Maryline Fallot, Yann Beuron and Franck Leguérinel, conducted by Evelino Pidò.
  • Radio Oesterreich International - From Zurich, Heinz Karl Gruber's Der Herr Nordwind with Cornelia Kallisch, Oliver Widmer, Alexander Kaimbacher, Judith Schmid, Sandra Trattnigg, Reinhard Mayr, Volker Vogel and Peter Keller, conducted by HK Gruber.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - A rebroadcast of the Metropolitan Opera performance of Berg's Wozzeck from earlier this season, with Alan Held, Katarina Dalayman, Graham Clark, Walter Fink, Clifton Forbis and Eric Cutler, conducted by James Levine.
  • NPR World of Opera - From Houston Grand Opera, a live performance of Handel's Ariodante with Susan Graham, Alexandra Coku, Oren Gradus, Christine Brandes, Sally Burgess, John McVeigh and Nicholas Phan, conducted by Christopher Hogwood.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3 - Vltava - A repeat broadcast of the Covent Garden performance of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West with Jose Cura, Mark Delavan, Andrea Gruber, Jonathan Lemalu, and Robert Lloyd, conducted by Antonio Pappano.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From Rome, a live performance of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, with Rainer Trost, James Morris, Ellie Dehn, Sara Fulgoni, Barbara Di Castri, Daniel Borowski and Lorenzo Carola, conducted by Daniele Gatti.
  • RBB Kulturradio - The February 16, 2006 premiere performance from Staatsoper Unter den Linden Berlin of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione de Poppea, with Carmen Giannattasio, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Amel Brahim-Djelloul, Malena Ernman and Lawrence Zazzo, conducted by René Jacobs.
  • Catalunya Musica - A live performance from Barcelona of Verdi's Otello with José Cura, Krassimira Stoyanova, Lado Ataneli and Vittorio Grigolo, conducted by Antoni Ros-Marbà.
  • Bayern 4 Klassik - Hear different conductor's interpretations of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail - Karl Böhm, William Christie, Colin Davis, John Eliot Gardiner, Ferenc Fricsay, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christopher Hogwood, Eugen Jochum, Istvan Kertész, Otto Klemperer, Josef Krips, Charles Mackerras, Peter Maag, Zubin Mehta, Yehudi Menuhin, Georg Solti, Otmar Suitner, George Szell and others.

Monday, February 06, 2006

What a difference a month makes!

Liz and I were glad we went to the MET performance of Verdi's Rigoletto on February 1. Although Placido Domingo is still not well enough to sing these days (he is undergoing treatment for a severe case of tracheitis), he was back at the podium on the 1st to conduct this performance, featuring Frederick Burchinal in the title role, Anna Netrebko as Gilda, Rolando Villazon as the Duca, Vitalij Kowaljow as Sparafucile and Nancy Fabiola-Herrera as Maddalena.

Domingo's conducting was generally sensitive to the singers, although (surprisingly) there seemed a certain lack of sympathy (I thought?) with Burchinal. I didn't sense it was at all deliberate. They just somehow did not seem entirely in sync to me. This was hardly the case throughout, just at certain odd moments.

As for Burchinal himself, he was reasonably effective on an emotional and dramatic level. It was odd, though, hearing the very occasional flatness and unsteadiness to a few incidental high notes, but then hearing him triumph easily with the really exposed high notes, such as the climax of "Si, vendetta" and the final scene. Here, the tones were pingy and steady as a rock! In fact, in general, the essential amplitude of the instrument itself and the presence he brings to the role as a result make his entire interpretation persuasive and authentic enough not to "let down the side", as the saying goes.

Anna Netrebko's spellbinding and remarkably fluent "Caro nome" was the capstone to a luminous Gilda. It was especially welcome hearing her sound so free and easy after her (I thought) pretty spotty reading on the broadcast. To me, she did not sound at her best in the Saturday b'cast at all, and I actually wondered if she was in vocal trouble. On the 1st, she demonstrated conclusively that she is now in fine shape after all. Thank goodness.

In Villazon's case, too, I heard more strain in the b'cast than in this February outing, which registered as a distinct improvement. Again, he was a bit rocky at the start, but he got going at the "La costanza tiranno del core" stanza, where I thought he was fine (unlike the broadcast, where he took much longer reaching his stride). Yes, at this February performance, the opening before that second stanza was indeed a bit strained, but honestly, he seemed to me in ringing and easy form for the rest -- and his exciting "Possente amor" in the second act, despite his not going for the optional top note at its climax, was so wonderfully precise in the "little notes" (the Nilsson term) and so energized at the same time that it convinced me even more that this aria is essential to the Duke's character and should never be omitted.Villazon's interpretation was as much a triumph of brilliant characterization, pure impatience and eagerness and callowness and selfishness and hot-headedness incarnate, as scrupulous music-making. This was my first time hearing him in person, and I felt he fulfilled most expectations.

I did much admire the Sparafucile too: Vitalij Kowaljow -- the first time I've ever seen him too. This is one formidable talent, and I applauded lustily at the conclusion of his second-scene duet with Rigoletto. He sports a spooky-smooth line and is a musician of uncommon suavity. His tones, rich and steady with an unfailing legato, combine clear definition with great ease at his lowest extension. The true menace he imparted to this role was achieved through sinister precision with the vocal line. One knew this character was especially dangerous precisely because of the icy delivery Kowaljow has mastered. Then when the full nastiness of the man exploded in the confrontation with his sister (with the disguised Gilda eavesdropping), the impact was terrifying. This man is an artist.

Fabiola-Herrera's Maddalena was musical enough not to detract from the final act, even though there was nothing that made it especially memorable. Still, with a voice that well disciplined, I'd be curious to see here in some more meaty role.

The Count Ceprano (a role one rarely notices) was a standout, Andrew Gangestad. Surprisingly, in this one case, this was very much like the December broadcast, where the Ceprano was possibly even more of a standout, John Shelhart. At any rate, for both Shelhart and Gangestad, I was hooked from the words "anima nera" on! I am even reminded of the impact that Brian Davis's Valvert had on me in Alfano's Cyrano on January 31. Suddenly, the Met seems to be producing a bumber crop of these young bass-baritones. Where are all these wonderful new bass-baritones coming from? We definitely need them.

It was unfortunate that Stephen West, usually a much more distinguished singer, did not match his usual standard, nor that of his colleague's Ceprano, in the pivotal role of Monterone. Still, he did not take away from the glow of the evening, and one hopes that it was a momentary lapse.

This was certainly one of the few recent Rigolettos of my experience where there was little out of place. In fact, much in it was superb and there was nothing that was really inadequate. In all, an uncommonly solid reading.

Geoffrey Riggs